Ivan Rebroff, the basso with the much-hyped four-octave range, played it very safe when he opened a weekend engagement at the Scottish Rite Auditorium on Halloween.
Rebroff offered a program of souped-up Russian folk songs, excerpts from "Fiddler on the Roof" and unidentified selections that were suitable for entertainment at a moderately priced Russian restaurant. (Even a top-priced $25 ticket got you no program: That was on sale for another $5). Rebroff ventured nowhere near any challenging classical repertory.
All this was interlaced with much audience-courting--and -pleasing--chatter, and four costume changes.
Whatever the voice once was, it has now settled most comfortably in the bass range, with the lowest notes rich and dark. But only at full-out projection. At more moderate dynamic levels, the lower voice grew chalky. The higher range was always straw-like and the (fortunately) sparingly used falsetto register, thin and strained.
Whatever vocal erosion has occurred, Rebroff remains a master of working his fans.
Whether asking them to call out songs for him to sing, waving to them as he wandered around the aisles with four musicians in tow, or touting his recordings by promising autographs, Rebroff demonstrated the kind of salesmanship that's never reserved in Hollywood just for Allhallows' Eve.